Hiring advice: First get clarity on 4 non-negotiable ‘must haves’ for each role


My CMO buddy was sharing experiences of consistently needing to recruit 20 or so staff for senior marketing, digital, and CRM roles to keep pace with his software company’s explosive growth. He shared a gem on how to short-circuit the recruitment process — for those hiring, for recruiters, and for job seekers.

Role descriptions are often pretty meaningless, unless carefully crafted by skilled recruiters. Many are ‘cut and paste’ from templates found on the web, or in a company’s files. They cover just about every possible attribute and angle. Based on many role or candidate skills descriptions, a lot of jobs would appear to fit a wide range of candidates.

My CMO mate does not have time to waste. Too much to do. So his instruction to his team and recruiters is simply this:

“Get clarity up front on what the Minimal Viable Candidate needs to be for every role. What are the most critical FOUR ‘must haves’. Then as you evaluate applications, score them quickly against those four ‘must haves’, out of 10 for each. Unless they score 32/40, don’t short-list them.”

Simply put. A players hire A players, B players tend to recruit C players, C players… you get the idea. Hire the best or reduce the quality of your talent pool.

The key here is being absolutely brutal about the criteria. Make it specific and dig into the evidence. Say you are recruiting a leader of a function: did they actually lead that function elsewhere? What were the crucial decisions they made? How did they align the team around those decisions? It normally takes three or more questions to establish if what they did meets the criteria you have.

Another trick, is look for purpose and passion. These can be seen in the signals that they not only have a passion for the role but also a passion for the profession. If you are looking at a PR candidate, for instance, look for their blog, dig into their Twitter stream, see how they are engaging online, look at their activity on LinkedIn. All of that will give you a clear signal as to how much they will be able to do, versus how much they will depend on others to do.

In the start-up tech world, Minimal Viable Product is defined as: “The version of a new product which allows a team to collect the maximum amount of validated learning about customers with the least effort.”

For those hiring, get very clear on what those four ‘must haves’ are. Cut to the chase. Only short-list those who excel across each. Then go deeper with that short-list.

Just as importantly, if you are a job seeker and a role attracts, push hard to get those doing the selecting to focus on the four ‘must haves’ for the role. Understand what they are early in the process. Evaluate your credentials and capabilities against those ‘must haves’. If there is a fit, calibrate and shape how you position your experiences and skills to give you the very best shot at standing out.

I am a great believer in facing reality, and in asking boldly for what you want.

Stop wasting time when recruiting and when looking for roles. Get clarity early on what the four non-negotiable ‘must haves’ are for every role. For hirers and candidates, this provides the focus for ticking the most critical ‘fit’ boxes before wasting time and energy of matches that will never be made.

My CMO mate swears by it. He’s the busiest guy I know, and what he does generally works. It can work for you. Minimal Viable Offer. Give it a go!

More reading:

8 skills to look for when hiring a content marketer
What’s more important for job hunters? Skills, or experience & credentials?
Why lazy job applications get ignored


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Award-winning Australian recruitment agency, Firebrand Talent, ignites the careers of digital, marketing, creative, communications, advertising, & media talent. If you are looking for your next career move, check out the jobs we currently have on in Sydney & Melbourne.


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